Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Oct 25th, 2011: Holland Revisited

Most of us are familiar with the poem "Welcome To Holland" by Emily Perl Kingsley.  Being from there, I have been asked about my opinion about this poem.  It also recently came up in a discussion during a class I took part in, many shared their thoughts about it and it turns out most have some (different) issues with it.  My first intruduction to this poem was when I was 2 weeks from having Annelies.  It was mentioned on TV, I do not remember the context.  I remember thinking at the time:  "Fabulous.  My ex-country is being compared with a disability.  Fitting."  (I have always been self-conscious of being from Holland.  It is not that interesting of a place to most Americans.  Being from France or Spain would have been so much cooler.  My accent would have been waaaay cooler, too.  The Dutch accent, like the language, sounds harsh.  Not sexy at all!)  Also, when I answered the question "Where are you from?" the responses varied from: "Oh, Holland, ...

-is that in Amsterdam? 
-do they speak Danish there?  Or German? 
-did you live in a windmill?
-does everyone wear wooden shoes there??
-I just ADORE scandinavian countries!
-I have been to Sweden...(Denmark...Germany...)
-I have an aunt from there, do you know her?  Her name is van den something...
-is that near the Netherlands (I find this a valid question actually.  It is confusing!  the Netherlands is the appropriate geographical name for the country, but it is often referred to as Holland by its people, those abroad, and rabid soccer fans.  Holland is the name of 2 of its provinces (North - and South Holland). "Hol" literally means "Hallow", a lot if the country is below sea level.  Oh, that reminds me of another one:
-are there a lot of dykes in Holland?  (the big shiteating grin on that person's face made me realize he was NOT talking about the fantastic reclamation technologies that do exist over there)
-Oh, Holland...Yeah, I have had a Danish before...heh heh... (this from a drunk dude at a bar).
(Now, American friends, before you think I am making fun of you, there are sooo many funny things the Dutch say about the U.S.!!)

But a few times, I received something that went like this:  "I went on a cruise/tour vacation to Europe, and was soooo looking forward to France and Italy, but HOLLAND TURNED OUT TO BE MY FAVORITE!  I had NOT expected that!  I want to go back just to Holland and see more of it!"

And it is that reaction I have to think about when I read the poem.  I wonder if E.P.K. had been to Europe, or at least had a good idea of what people's perception was about Holland.  So that part, I choose to see that way, simply because I, like many parents I know would not have things any other way!   For us, Holland turned out to be an unexpected but perfectly pleasant surprise!  One we like better than whatever our fantasies of Italy were.  One we want to share with the world and say: It is ALL GOOD, we are in a good place!

E.P.K does talk about the pain that never goes away.  For me, it is not pain.  It is realization and awareness, and neither of those are bad things I am actually happy to have gained!  The only painful thing to me is when I try to think about "B.A." (Before Annelies), if I offended anyone with my naivete!   (So, since I have a captive audience of about one on this blog -heh heh-, I would like to take a moment and shout out that any dumb comments I may have made back then came from a place of ignorance, not unacceptance.)  That makes me cringe if I dwell on it too long.  But I don't, and I try to never forget this so that I can appoach people with some kind of grace, even if insensitive, cringeworthy comments are made.

And all those people who are bragging about Italy (or, their 'typical' kids), well, they are just proud parents like I am!  Because they are proud of their kids does not mean they want to rub something in (there are some exceptions, unfortunately, that I have heard of but not yet experienced.)

So I guess I am back...Funny how life goes, isn't it? 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Oct 23rd: Yuki

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

~Mohandas Gandhi

You came into our lives the way you left: surprisingly and dramatically. It was a Wednesday afternoon in the Spring of 1997 and I pulled into my driveway wanting to hear the song that was on the radio (it was “Your Woman” by White Town) and was slightly irritated when a very excited Leif came running up to my car. I rolled down the window and he told me that he had ‘found something interesting (don’t remember his exact words). I turned off the car and followed Leif inside.

Turn back time to the previous Sunday. We found a dead white cat in the office* driveway, it puzzled us and made us sad for the owner, but we did not really think about it much further. It did not look like it had suffered trauma, and we could tell it was a female.  We were not super surprised, because one of the neighbors had a whole bunch of cats (more than 15) that frequented our yards. We were a little disturbed by someone who would have that many cats without managing their procreative activities, but we never had anything about the cats because we were ‘Cat people’.
A box was thrust in my face with little white creatures that looked like rats. My Mom and Leif explained that Leif had heard a bird-like yelping sound in the garage, so birds was what he expected to find. He found you and your 3 siblings; approx. 7 day old kittens who had lost their mother at about 3 days old (we now understood that the dead cat was in the driveway was your mom). The Veterinarian explained that you and your sibs survived because your mother was able to give you colostrum those first few days, which goes a long way to ensuring survival of a young one. You all were super thirsty. 2 of you had not opened your eyes yet (because you all looked like each other, and you certainly did NOT look like cats, we don’t remember who was who from the beginning). Leif and my Mom took care of you all, feeding you with eye droppers. The 4 of you thrived from the beginning. Even though Aaron and I already had 2 cats (Rusty and Spikkel), it was not too hard to convince him that we had to have one of you.
The kitten-box was also duly transported to and from the office on days where both mom and Leif were there. In about a week or 2, you started looking like actual kittens, and you ventured outside of the box.
Even though you had four legs, a tail and whiskers, something about you never actually believed that you were a cat. This had to do with the fact that you were fed by humans from the beginning of your life. You never saw your mother, by the time your eyes were open the only ones you ever saw feeding you were us humans (we spend a LOT of time at my Mom’s house in Granite Bay that spring.) Once you came to live with us full-time, you quickly established yourself at the top of the family hierarchy within the Fisher household. As the kids grew, you came to accept them a little more. Over the past few months, Marco became a little more careful in his approach towards you and you allowed him to pet you as long as he did not do anything ‘wild’.
You gave us an enormous scare in the fall of ’99. I guess you came a little too close to the dogs next door and one of them bit you. You did not look like there was anything wrong, there was no blood. But you were in shock, breathing really hard. We took you to the emergency vet clinic, where they put you in an oxygen chamber and you were able to breathe normally again. You had some internal trauma and spent 2 days in the hospital but you recovered pretty quickly. Because your outside skin layer was separated from the inside layer, some air caught in it and until that dissolved it sounded and felt like rice crispies when we petted you on that side. So for a while your nickname was “Rice Crispy Kitty”, interspersed with “Our Thousand Dollar Kitty”- the price tag to get you mended back to health from that little incident.
This thing about you where you thought you were ‘people’ was evident in your reaction when we brought home several other creatures to live with us. First there was Sophie, who came to live with us after Spikkel passed away. Then Marco and Annelies joined our family. Oh, the looks of disdain you gave us (and them) were absolutely priceless. While we laughed at these instances, the special bond you had with Aaron made sure you never ever lacked for warmth and love. You and I had our special times; when Aaron was not around, after the kids were in bed you came and graced me with your presence, cuddling on my lap. When Aaron was home, though, you never hung out with me. Initially I found this confusing, weird and a little irritating. But I learned and came to accept that animals choose their hierarchy with people, and as much as you thought of yourself as the top (boss) of our little household, Aaron was your number 2 person and once I understood the dynamics I never begrudged that relationship.
You knew when you did something ‘wrong’, usually when you tried to sneak out at moments when we wanted you to stay in. You had this hilarious meow-meow-meow thing you did when we ‘yelled’ at you. Because of this, we also called you “Our Back talking Kitty”.
As you got older, you became more cross eyed, something that happens to Siamese cats (that whole ‘I am People” thing is just slightly compounded by that little part of you that was also Siamese). This made for funny moment when you would try to jump on something, miss, and look around you as if to say: “Did anyone see that? And if there was someone, your look would be one of “I SO TOTALLY MEANT to do that.” Aaron and I would look at each other and laugh, but never in your face because we valued your dignity. One of us would pick you up and pet you to help make you feel OK about things.
Despite the fact that you were aging, you were always healthy and happy. You took care of yourself, and to help you maintain your beautiful grooming we sent you in for an annual trim every spring. We lovingly called this your “Attitude Adjustment”. Yes, you did have an attitude, again because it the whole “I-am-people-even-though-I-am-a-mutt-who-is-partly-Siamese” thing.
Aaron mentioned just last week that he felt you seemed to be slowing down just a week ago. It became evident you seemed to be sleeping more, usually in a sunny spot on the landing of the stairs. My comment was that you were probably more tired because Max (the latest addition to our family) was giving you a run for your money. You gave us our final laugh last Thursday morning. I got up to go to work and Aaron was still sleeping. You and I played the bedroom door game every morning; because you HAD to come see Aaron (You probably heard me get up and went to wait at the door so you could go in. Yes, I had a strict no-cats-in-the-bedroom rule which was of course broken the moment I left the bedroom. I opened the door and you swooped by my legs like a little lightning bolt. I muttered: “Geez, for an old broad she still moves very freaking fast.” Aaron dissolved in laughter (I thought he was asleep).
Aaron found you on Sunday morning. Your hind legs were paralyzed. We took you to the emergency vet, who diagnosed you within minutes; you had a stroke due to a blood clot, this caused your paralysis. Your tissue was already starting to die. There was no reversal for this condition, and we could not bear to have you finish out your days with a paralyzed hind-end. As we were sitting in the living room, Aaron, Marco, you and I (it was 6 am, Annelies was still asleep), Aaron and I exchanged a glance that said that we knew you would be leaving us.  He explained to Marco that there was a possibility you might not be able to be 'fixed'.  Marco took it in, he seemed to understand in his way.  He gave you a kiss on your nose good-bye before you left.  We knew what we had to do and it was so, so difficult. I brought the kids over to the grand parents and came to the vet’s office. When you saw me, you showed happiness to see me and you purred briefly. Thank you for that. We spent a few more moments with you before you took your final journey over the rainbow bridge to join Rusty and Spikkel. You were the final of the “Original Fisher First Three” kitties. You are now with your friends. You bought 14 ½ years at the beginning of your life in the most miraculous way and we are so, so grateful we were chosen to spend this time with you. You will be in our hearts always.

*Back then Leif ran his business out of a home on King Road in Loomis. For investment purposes, he and my Mom bought the house next door when it came up for short sale. The neighborhood was not that great back then, and houses were “gasp” well under $100K at the time. We rented (and eventually bought) that house from them.